With Columbia and Greene counties seeing an increase in their taxable sales activity for three consecutive months this year, it’s intriguing to think that the local economy is snapping back. Maybe. Maybe not.

The Twin Counties are among 38 in the state to meet or exceed their taxable sales activity for the months of June, July and August 2020 over their numbers from 2019, according to the latest report from the New York State Association of Counties Coronavirus Economic Impact report series.

Some significant improvement was due to internet shopping and the taxes that were generated from that. A lot of people were doing home-improvement projects during that time. Putting money into building always lifts the economy.

It’s a hopeful sign, but we must consider the calendar. We’re heading into official winter. The surge in COVID cases we see now could persist through the holidays as people spend more time indoors.

We could be in for higher unemployment, another shutdown of nonessential businesses, tailspinning local sales-tax revenue, closed schools and harmful cuts to essential services. In short, we may be looking at a reflection of what we went through in the spring.

Taxable sales represent the full value of transactions, not the amount of sales tax generated. Statewide, the total taxable sales were down for the June-July-August period by around $8.6 billion or about 9% over last year’s numbers, according to the report.

While the state as a whole is down, Columbia and Greene have seen an increase in their amount of total taxable sales this year over the same June-July-August period in 2019. Columbia County is up about $15 million or about 4.9% in total taxable sales for the June through August period, an increase from the county’s roughly $307 million in 2019 to about $322 million in total taxable sales in 2020, according to the report.

Greene County is up by $10.4 million or about 4.3% in its total taxable sales for the June-July-August period, an increase from the county’s nearly $241.7 million in 2019 to about $252.2 million in total taxable sales in 2020, according to the report.

Jack Marren, president of the New York State Association of Counties, says that despite some improvement over the summer when the spread of the virus was low, the vast majority of local governments around the state are still seeing sales-tax revenues fall far short of what they budgeted for their current fiscal year.

But Columbia and Greene counties are once again on the front lines of the battle against a second wave of the virus, so it is absolutely vital that leaders in Washington reach an agreement that provides the direct aid that local governments need to stop the spread.

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